Pope Francis: Forgiveness purifies the ‘air of hatred’

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Pope Francis smiles and waves at visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican after praying the Angelus July 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — “Every one of us, in fact, is ‘forgiven,'”  Pope Francis declared in his Sunday Angelus address. The Holy Father implored, “let us not forget this, we are forgiven.”

Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis encouraged those gathered to embrace forgiveness as a fundamental Christian virtue and highlighted its significance in fostering peace and healing in society.

The Gospel passage from Matthew 18:21-35 served as the foundation for the pope’s address. It begins with Peter posing a question to Jesus: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” In Peter’s question, the number seven symbolizes completeness and generosity.

However, Jesus responded with a different concept of forgiveness, saying, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” This declaration signifies that forgiveness should be limitless, mirroring the way God forgives humanity.

To illustrate this point further, Pope Francis shared the parable of a king who forgave a servant’s staggering debt of 10,000 talents. The king’s act of forgiveness was a reflection of God’s boundless compassion and mercy. Yet, the same servant, after receiving such immense forgiveness, showed no mercy to a fellow servant who owed him a significantly smaller debt of 100 denarii.

The Pope underlined the clear message of the parable saying, “Jesus’ message is clear: God forgives incalculably, exceeding all measure.” As human beings, we cannot repay this divine mercy, but by forgiving others, we imitate God’s grace.

Forgiveness is the oxygen that purifies hatred

Pope Francis emphasized that forgiveness is not merely an optional good deed but a “fundamental condition” for Christians. He urged believers to recognize that they are recipients of God’s immense forgiveness and encouraged them to extend forgiveness to others, stating, “Outside of forgiveness, there is no hope; outside of forgiveness, there is no peace.”

The pope described forgiveness as the “oxygen that purifies the air of hatred,” an “antidote to the poison of resentment,” and the path to healing the wounds that afflict society.

He challenged his hearers to reflect on their own capacity to forgive and asked them to think of someone who has hurt them. He encouraged them to pray for the strength to forgive that person out of love for the Lord, emphasizing the healing power of forgiveness.

In conclusion, Pope Francis invoked the intercession of Mary, the Mother of Mercy, to help believers receive God’s grace and find the strength to forgive one another.

In remarks following the address, the Holy Father mentioned his upcoming trip to Marseille to participate in the conclusion of the Recontres Méditerranéennes, an initiative aimed at promoting “peace, collaboration, and integration” in Mediterranean cities, with a focus on addressing the challenges migration presents. He urged prayers for this endeavor and expressed gratitude to those working to prepare for the meeting.

The Pope also extended his greetings to various groups and communities, including pilgrims from Miami, and continued to pray for peace, especially for the people of Ukraine.

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